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How a comic book healed the wounds of normalization

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A panel from Nothing “Normal” About It (Freedom Funnies)

In the Spring of 2010, just months after our founding, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (C-SJP) officially endorsed the anti-normalization document drafted by Palestinian Youth Against Normalization. The statement, written by Palestinian students from the West Bank, Gaza, inside Israel and in diaspora, rejects normalization “on all levels…economic, political, cultural and institutional,” because it serves to “legitimize Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people by giving the appearance of normalcy to the relationship between oppressor and oppressed.”

Normalization includes participating in any project designed to bring together Palestinian and/or Arab youth with Zionists that “is not explicitly designed to resist or expose the occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression inflicted upon the Palestinian people.”

During the time of our endorsement, many of Columbia SJP’s members were not new to the world of Palestine activism; most of us had seen (or regrettably participated in) normalization practices to our exhaustion and recognized normalization wherever it made its obstinate appearance. Signing onto this statement seemed a commonsensical and appropriate measure of solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters living under Israeli occupation. After years of struggle with normalization, it felt liberating to come out of the closet. We were not going to normalize and we weren’t afraid to say it. 

Little did we know our declaration would cause such a fuss; it turned out some people didn’t like our anti-normalization policy. It offended Zionists who felt entitled to “dialogue,” and even some well-intentioned non-Zionists who found it appealing to make it their mission to bring Palestine solidarity and Zionist groups together. The idea that a Palestine group would reject dialogue with a Zionist group seemed “uncivilized,” “primitive,” “cowardly,” “unconstructive,” “silencing,” neglecting of “complexity,” and so on. Hillel groups set up a table on campus at one of our events with signs that said “C-SJP Rejects ‘Normalization’” and “We’re ready to talk, are you?” We had hit a nerve, but why? What was so threatening about the rejection of dialogue, discussion and the slew of “let’s work together” event proposals we’ve been presented with over the years: eating falafel together, smoking hookah together, dance-offs, Frisbee games, etc.?

The barrage of harassment didn’t stop there. It permeated multiple layers of my personal life. For the past several years, a few Zionists I went to high school with (that bullied me for my political beliefs) contacted me relentlessly. For years, I received messages every few weeks to months (from various email accounts) that would hobble back and forth between calling me anti-Semitic for criticizing Israeli policies, to pleading for a friendly discussion over coffee. I was amazed; they were absolutely relentless despite my unwillingness to engage with them. I imagined it was like a racist or homophobe having a black or gay friend; have one and they feel better about their bigoted politics. Dialogue with them and they can pat themselves on the back for being civilized enough to talk things out.   

Why it so important for Zionists to reach out to Palestinians, and not the other way around? It’s simple: Zionists gain everything from normalization and we lose all. Normalization asks Palestinians to face their occupiers (or those that actively support them) and to afford them a level of respect beyond cordiality; it asks us to accept the humanity and dignity of those who prevent us from being able to realize our own.

The myth that what has unfolded in historic Palestine is a war, conflict, irreparable hatred, the result of some religious/cultural discord, etc. is deeply lodged into the minds of many in this country. Palestine solidarity activists must work overtime to deconstruct these myths. If our time and energy is valuable to us, it can’t be wasted on working with Zionists. Racism and colonialism are not up for discussion. We cannot address ourselves to an audience actively working toward goals that are oppositional to ours.

Of course, even if Zionists understand why we are not interested in dialogue, it services them to keep up the façade that they are the civilized ones. That amount of self-delusion doesn’t bother me; I have grown accustomed to it. What I did find disturbing in the aftermath of our endorsement, however, was that some non-Zionist students were actually confused. An anti-normalization stance does little to address the problem of how to make the issue of normalization easily understood to a general audience.

While going for a walk with fellow SJP members, frustrated by yet another mischaracterization of our anti-normalization policy, I remembered reading Ethan Heitner’s comics on Palestine and immediately wrote to him asking for help creating a cartoon on normalization. I had no idea where to start. I emailed Palestine activists about their experiences, I read the work of Arab political cartoonists on normalization and I mulled over ideas.

When I sat down with Ethan to come up with a proposal, years of  trauma filled pages of his notebook as I recounted memories: degrading comments, inequitable treatment by administrators, Zionists dressing up like Palestinians to mock them, being asked to dialogue over and over again only to be treated like I was less than human. All the emotions from these experiences were compounded by the fact that I unwittingly participated in normalization just days before – I engaged with members of pro-Israel groups on campus during an event – and it was just too much for me. I felt devastated, like I had put myself on display and betrayed many years of experience. This process became our story; the comic didn’t need to be creative fiction; the truth was jarring, ridiculous and universal enough. I wrote out a script while Ethan offered me words of encouragement at the coffee shop.

It wasn’t easy to translate moments of painful vulnerability into a comic for mass-distribution, but it became one of my life’s most important projects. When I reflect on my past relationship with the charade of civility otherwise known as normalization, it is no longer with feelings of disgust, anxiety, humiliation and anger. I’m relieved to find that these once-painful events have turned into moments of immeasurable empowerment. I’ve assigned my experiences to paper, to be released into the world and shared in hopes that other Palestinians and solidarity activists can say with me: kefayeh, we’ve had enough.  

About Tanya Keilani

Tanya Keilani is a member of Columbia University Students for Justice in Palestine and the National SJP Conference Organizing Committee.

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36 Responses

  1. J. Otto Pohl
    December 14, 2011, 8:48 am

    The problems is despite Zionist propaganda that Israel is not a normal nation-state like France, Italy or even Post WWII Germany. It is a colonial settler state like South Africa or Rhodesia. Starting in the 1960s and lasting until these states gave up their policies of White Supremacy and apartheid the international community did not allow them to have a normalized existence. Israel unlike the RSA and Rhodesia has benefited from having a political lobby in the US strong enough to garner itself the protection of a Security Council veto. This veto has prevented similar sanctions from being applied to Israel. Thus there is no comparable international pressure for Israel to give up Jewish supremacy and dismantle its system of apartheid.

    • tokyobk
      December 14, 2011, 10:01 am

      In the SA comparison, how do you account for the fact that there were Jews living there, that Jews always had a historic connection to at land, praying towards Jerusalem, writing and praying in Hebrew etc… There was no historic connection between the Dutch and English to the lands they settled and colonized.

      Yes, with out a doubt modern Zionism is a european nationalism, but the SA and Rhodesia comparison seems to deny any Jewish presence or connection which is false.
      And now the Jewish population is mostly descended from Arab expulsions which further complicates your comparison.

      • Woody Tanaka
        December 14, 2011, 10:14 am


        Those facts should not be ignored, but all they establish is that those Jews who lived there had a right to participate in government, have the vote, have their human rights respected, etc. It did not give Europeans and Americans who happened to be Jews the right to crush existing polity and impose a new one–one which they ran and which benefited them.

      • GalenSword
        December 14, 2011, 10:15 am

        Pure Zionist propaganda.

        It blurs the immense distinction between Eastern European ethnic Ashkenazi invaders whose only connection to Palestine was mythological and the native Jewish Arab population, who generally objected to the Zionist invasion just as much as Muslim or Christian Palestinians.

        Although there was a small resident alien ethnic Ashkenazi population just as there were resident alien ethnic German, ethnic Polish, and ethnic Russian populations these groups had no real ties to the native Christian or Jewish Arab populations.

        The Zionist invader population in Stolen and Occupied Palestine probably most resembles the Algerian pieds noirs.

      • W.Jones
        December 14, 2011, 10:32 am

        The SA and Rhodesia comparisons are not exact because both groups have ancient connections to land. However, the comparison to one of two native groups coming from another location and pushing out the other native population does work.

        It would be more like the Confederates who emigrated to Brazil after the Civil War coming back and expelling nonsoutherners. Or Americans who came from Europe because of European persecution 300 years ago returning.

        It is an unusual situation, for which pure colonial models don’t fit exactly. It is more like “re-colonization” or “re-settlement.”

        The religious issues make things harder, because many of the Israeli immigrants include either non-Jewish converts to Judaism, or non-Jewish relatives of Israelis. Meanwhile, Palestinian refugees with ancestral roots in the land cannot return to their ancestral homeland. And Christians, whose religion also considers them part of Israel (St Paul said this the most clearly), are not given the automatic “Right of Return”.

        But in any case, to be exact, we are talking about one group that left a core native population coming back after many centuries, or even more than two millenia, and re-colonizing on top of a native population, and bringing with them many without any ancestral connection at all, but only a religious or indirect-familial one.

        Consequently, both groups have equal “right” to the land, but making a state of the European returness on top of the natives is for practical purposes a Colonial or Re-Colonial project.

        Of course next you can ask what is the real basis for the separation between the two groups, if they really came from the same core group- and I think the dividing line is really religion, rather than ethnicity.

      • GalenSword
        December 14, 2011, 1:03 pm

        W.Jones is mythographying.

        The Bible in the Book of Esther discusses massive conversion to some form of Judaic religion.

        The vast majority of Judaic populations in the Greco-Roman period had no blood or territorial connection to the Kingdom of Judea.

        The 2nd-3rd century CE Roman historian Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus expressly discussed the distinction between the large Judaic population and the small Judean population.

        The Judean population never left its home territory. Eventually its members became Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

        As Seth Schwartz makes clear in Imperialism And Jewish Society, 200 B.C.E. To 640 C.E., Judaism was reconstructed among external Judaic populations after it was shattered in the 2nd century CE.

        Modern Jews have no more Judean ancestry than modern Christians.

        The Zionist settler colonists have no more legitimate rights in Palestine than any other bunch of European settler colonists would.

      • MHughes976
        December 14, 2011, 4:07 pm

        I don’t see conversion as a major topic of Esther, though the Jewish characters seem to have no objection to living in the Persian Empire and to have no particular thought of returning to Palestine. Jonah, which has a strong element of comedy, does concern a missionary effort, whose success is embarrassing to those involved in it. There clearly were Jewish communities dispersed all over the Persian or Persian/Egyptian world. Their language, Aramaic, was the language of imperial administration.

      • lysias
        December 14, 2011, 4:52 pm

        There’s plenty of epigraphic (inscriptional) evidence for Judaism being a proselytizing religion in the Roman Empire.

      • GalenSword
        December 14, 2011, 7:36 pm

        Esther 8:17

        In each and every province and in each and every city, wherever the king’s commandment and his decree arrived, there was gladness and joy for the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many among the peoples of the land became Jews, for the dread of the Jews had fallen on them.

        וּבְכָל־מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה וּבְכָל־עִיר וָעִיר מְקֹום אֲשֶׁר דְּבַר־הַמֶּלֶךְ וְדָתֹו מַגִּיעַ שִׂמְחָה וְשָׂשֹׂון לַיְּהוּדִים מִשְׁתֶּה וְיֹום טֹוב וְרַבִּים מֵעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ מִתְיַהֲדִים כִּי־נָפַל פַּחַד־הַיְּהוּדִים עֲלֵיהֶם׃

      • W.Jones
        December 14, 2011, 10:09 pm

        Actually I disagree with Haman being killed. I get a bad sense that the OT may take a positive view of this, but in my opinion, attempted genocide or conspiracy to commit genocide- what he did at most- isn’t quite the same as committing genocide. Granted, I don’t think Esther asked for Haman to be killed. But anyway, I think it was “overkill”, so to speak. I think it is a positive that modern Israeli courts- as far as I know- don’t have the death penalty.

      • W.Jones
        December 14, 2011, 10:10 pm

        proestant scholar Gill comments on this verse; “for the fear of the Jews fell upon them; lest they should be slain by them, in virtue of this new edict. “

      • MHughes976
        December 16, 2011, 12:10 pm

        I should have paid attention to that verse, I agree. But I’m not sure that it removes my doubt over conversion as a major theme of the book. The reference to those who from mere fear declared – perhaps merely ‘professed’ – themselves to be Jews seems very contemptuous and doesn’t sound as if the author of the story supposes that a great many of his audience belong or are descended from this rather unworthy group. The verse could be a warning to check the credentials of those who claim to be Jewish.
        But perhaps the descendants of Ahasuerus and Esther will be Jewish kings?

      • J. Otto Pohl
        December 14, 2011, 10:40 am

        The first Zionist Jewish colony was not established in Palestine until 1882 much, much later than the Dutch in South Africa who got there is 1656. The Boers established a very strong emotional connection to the land through the trek northward. So by the 19th century they no longer considered themselves Dutch, but a new nationality that had formed on the land of South Africa. The Boer connection to South Africa was much, much stronger than the connection of Ashkenazis to Palestine by 1948 when apartheid was established in both the RSA and Palestine. The Boers have been in South Africa for 226 years or almost five times as long as the Ashkenazis have been in Palestine. Yet, the White South Africans have dismantled apartheid and the Zionists keep on making their version harsher every day.

      • Light
        December 14, 2011, 12:10 pm

        Prior to Zionism, Jews made up 1% of the population of Palestine. Why 1% of the population has a historic connection that somehow trumps the other 99% is ridiculous (to be fair the 1% living there were not Zionists).

        Zionism is based on mythology and in denial of the history of the Palestine and in denial of the rights of the indigenous people living there. The fact that someone prays in the direction of your house does not give them the right to kick you out of your house.

      • droog
        December 14, 2011, 2:19 pm

        Oh come on Light,
        even Wikipedia shows the Ottoman Census research as 4% Jewish in the mid 19th Century pre political Zionism , rising to 8% in 1914 and about 10-11% in the early British Mandate , when we graciously gave sovereignty of all/part ( depending on POV ) of Palestine to a bunch of well connected suits in the ‘Washington’ of the day.

      • Light
        December 14, 2011, 3:07 pm

        I stand corrected but the point is the same. The Palestinian Jews prior to Zionism were one of many ethnic groups in Palestine.

      • GalenSword
        December 14, 2011, 7:39 pm

        In point of fact Palestinian Jews belonged to several different ethnic groups. Before Zionism ethnic Ashkenazim were one of the smaller ethnic groups among those to which Palestinian Jews might belong.

      • MHughes976
        December 16, 2011, 1:27 pm

        The claims of non-Jewish Palestinians aren’t weakened by the date and circumstances of their arrival unless (at very least) they arrived in some wrongful way. But if many moved during late Ottoman times, from one part of an empire to another – legal and acceptable enough, surely? – they and their descendants had and continue to have a right to be there. The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire did not put an obligation on them to return to another former province – why should it? On the contrary it placed on obligation on any new sovereign to protect them now that the old sovereign had ceased to exist. If there is anyone in today’s Palestine who can prove continuous family residence for a thousand year that proof does not confer extra rights.

      • andrew r
        December 14, 2011, 1:54 pm

        tokyobk –

        Many early Zionist figures referred to what they were doing as colonialism. A famous example is Jabotinsky in his “Iron Wall” article, which disingenuously claimed the Palestinians would not have to be expelled for settlement, yet posited an “iron wall of bayonets” to make them accept the Jewish settlers. Another case is Aharon Eisenberg whose company Agudat Netaim developed farms on moshavot for private ownership. (See Land, Labor by Gershon Shafir)

        The third president of the WZO, Otto Warburg, belonged to the Prussian Colonization Company and worked as a land surveyor for German settlement of Poland. He was the one who gave Ruppin the mandate to form a WZO office in Jaffa. And building settlements in Palestine was just one of his projects; he proposed a railroad from Germany to Baghdad running through Anatolia with Jewish colonies on either side of the tracks (Of course this didn’t go anywhere). Ruppin himself viewed the PCC as a model for settling Palestine with the exception of Hebracizing the natives (It was policy of the PCC to Germanize the Polish as Ruppin was).

        The most significant indicator of Zionism’s colonial nature, and something that needs to be acknowledged when you talk about ‘historic connection to the land’, is that like most colonial settlers the European Zionists despised the natives they found in their colonies, and the Old Yishuv was no exception. When Yemenite Jews arrived just before WWI, they had to live in barracks built for them away from the moshavim they worked at. Only Ashkenazim were allowed in a kibbutz.

        “The historic connection to the land” was for European Jews and only European Jews. Arab Jews were a source of imported labor. That’s how they were treated by the developing colonies before 1948 and that’s how Mideastern Jews were treated after Palestine was made into a Jewish state.

        Now, although the settlers didn’t arrive in the name of a mother country, the Zionist project itself was integrated into or spun-off from other colonial projects, including the above-mentioned PCC. Some technical experts from Algeria joined the moshavim, the German embassy protected the Yishuv from Turkish hostility until almost before the British took Jerusalem, and of course Ben-Gurion and others formed a Jewish Legion carrying the British flag. Few of the settlements in Palestine before WWI were profitable and the British takeover was needed to make the Yishuv a force that could conquer Palestine.

        What really makes Zionism colonialist, in my view, is that like the Puritans and Quakers who settled North America, Jewish settlement in Palestine was backed by imperialists who detested Jews and saw this project as a way to get rid of them and solve their socialist revolutionary problem. And that’s how Herzl pitched the idea to the European statesmen he met.

    • eee
      December 14, 2011, 10:38 am

      The UN veto is a non-issue as the Syrian case proves. Any country can impose its own sanctions without a UN veto. If Russia and China want to impose sanctions on Israel, who is stopping them? There is no need for a UN resolution to apply pressure on Israel.

      • W.Jones
        December 14, 2011, 1:12 pm

        The UN is a forum for the disempowered states of the globalized third world to say something. Demanding third world countries sanction prosperous ones is like demanding exploited minimum wage workers in a very bad third world job market on strike. Ideally maybe they should, but it is a hard demand.

      • richb
        December 14, 2011, 2:09 pm

        It’s not merely the veto. The veto makes the U.S. effectively half of the Quartet. The U.S. blocks sanctions not only for itself but also as part of the UN. The State Department also labels any independent sanctions against Israel by an individual state as delegitimizing. This has a profound effect on Europe so now we are at three quarters of the Quartet. Thus, there is no hope for any governmental action on the part of the international community. Thus, it’s left to individuals in civil society to do the heavy lifting here, particularly those of us who are Americans because our government does not express our wishes (as was the case in SA). Thanks, eee, for providing an excellent justification for why we need BDS!

  2. iamuglow
    December 14, 2011, 8:52 am

    “The myth that what has unfolded in historic Palestine is a war, conflict, irreparable hatred, the result of some religious/cultural discord, etc. is deeply lodged into the minds of many in this country. Palestine solidarity activists must work overtime to deconstruct these myths. If our time and energy is valuable to us, it can’t be wasted on working with Zionists. Racism and colonialism are not up for discussion. We cannot address ourselves to an audience actively working toward goals that are oppositional to ours.”

    Great article & comic…I wish it went on for another 100 pages.

    NB…I missed the link to the comic at first…I would suggest calling it out, seperately, maybe at the end.

  3. pabelmont
    December 14, 2011, 9:52 am

    “Let’s talk about Israel”. Hmm, OK, “Please, sir, tell me, where is this place, this Israel? I want to be sure we’ll be talking about the same place. And, actually, since we’re talking to each other in a NORMALIZED MANNER, how about, adding, “let’s talk about Palestine — you know, the place that was once called Mandatory Palestine and ruled by Britain, and is now called Israel and the occupied territories and ruled by Israel.”

    Looks like the Zionist students still want to be loved and accepted, all without saying what project it is in regard to which they want to be loved and accepted.

    “You want us to love and accept Zionism? Well, before we get to “love” adn “accept”, how about you describe to us the long and the short of Zionism and tell us what the impact of Zionism has been and — in the alternative — ought to be on Palestinians.”

    Yes, indeedy, talking just to “make nice” will never be productive for Palestinians.

  4. pabelmont
    December 14, 2011, 10:10 am

    As we read at 972mag, “The extreme right in Israel is so fixed in its ideology that Arabs will never accept Israel, that it fails to see that many Arabs are willing to do so. It is the occupation that they refuse to accept. Many right-wing academics absurdly claim that the occupation has nothing to do with Arab anger against Israel, and instead label any opposition to the occupation as anti-Semitism.

    At the Alliance of Civilization conference in Doha, I saw what the future of the Middle East could look like: The desire to build a better future for our people can overcome the desire to dominate one another.”

    This writer has the idea that Israel (and Zionists, and Hillels, and the whole thang) could be accepted by many Arabs if only the occupation ended. Not quite all that the Palestinians have asked for (they also demand return of refugees and democracy inside Israel), but a good start.

    Perhaps a dialog (not normalization, but a dialog) on the pros and cons of ending the occupation could be useful at Columbia — even if useful chiefly (as I suspect) to clarify the non-negotiable colonial ambitions of Israel/Zionism as understood by the Hillel folks at Columbia. The event should be open and widely advertised to the whole of Columbia’s students.

  5. W.Jones
    December 14, 2011, 10:43 am

    This is tough. Ultimately, I think it would be good if a battered spouse at some time sits down with the batterer and talk things over and reconcile. Or former victims of Apartheid in South Africa sit down and talk. But it seems hard too, and not something we should demand of the victims.

  6. richb
    December 14, 2011, 10:57 am

    Thanks. This was very helpful. Coming from a conservative background I disagree with right-wing Zionism — both Christian and Jewish — but I believe I understand it. Left-wing Zionism was always confusing to me. That’s why I was completely blindsided on Daily Kos after coming back from visiting Israel. On every other issue the left had stood for justice, the little guy, and was anti-war. After seeing the truth with my own eyes I had assumed that this would apply to the I/P conflict, also. But, there is another part of the left-wing psyche that contributes to this. As with all generalizations don’t take this too far and your mileage may vary. Generally speaking, the right wants fear or respect and is authoritarian. The left wants to be liked or loved and is egalitarian.

    Right-wing Zionism is all about power, even Christian Zionism. In the case of the latter, the unconditional support of Israel is so Jesus returns and then roll credits. Left-wing Zionism more reflects the left’s psyche. Asymmetrical relationships remind the left too much of the right’s authoritarianism and furthermore cause issues with its innate egalitarianism. In cases such as climate change the left realizes the media’s equal treatment of “both sides” is in and of itself biased. Even here as long as you belong to the oppressed group rather than an oppressing group falsely applying a bogus symmetry doesn’t happen. But, what happens if you belong to an oppressing group like me being a modestly wealthy, white, male, evangelical Christian? Or in the case of left wing Zionism being a modestly wealthy, white, male Jew? Does being a generic liberal assuage the guilt? I say no.

    Fighting against oppression must be on the terms of the oppressed and not on the terms of the (feeling) guilty oppressors. It’s not about how we feel or what people think of us. It’s about justice and freedom. If pursuing those ends means we look like crap and we are dissed — or to use a term of art from the conflict — delegitimized so be it. In my opinion and speaking as a former right-winger this is where the left, whether Zionist or non-Zionist, needs a small right-wing injection. We need to not care what other people think of us. Until we do that we will have all these useless “conversations” that do nothing to relieve the oppression of the Palestinian people.

    • American
      December 14, 2011, 11:52 am

      Absolutely brillant!! richb……that is exactly!! where it’s at.

  7. American
    December 14, 2011, 11:45 am

    Tayna is right.
    Dialoguing with the committed zionist is just a charade of civility. For zionist it’s just another opportunity to repeat their myths and justify themselves.
    Can anyone here imagine any kind of constructive dialogue with say, eee or witty”
    Better for Palestines to keep making their case to the world, not to the zionist, don’t give them the opportunity to sidetrack what you are saying, blog you down with nonsense. It just ends up like threads here with eee and witty…all the energy taken up with debunking their myths and claims over and over.
    All a Palestine would be doing with zionist when they do that is ‘indulging’ them once again.
    Better they be ignored and not given a platform.

  8. American
    December 14, 2011, 12:03 pm

    BTW—LOVE that comic book.

  9. Boycott Israel on Campus
    December 14, 2011, 12:35 pm

    A really fine comic. Especially the 85-year-old student activist who’s been trapped for eons in the “dialogue” trap.

    Now all we need is the actual feet of students marching into their student governments– and demanding the university-wide boycott of all products from Israel.

    That will mean liberation.

  10. Annie Robbins
    December 14, 2011, 4:01 pm

    fantastic article Tanya Keilani, more power to you. and love the comic book, great idea, perfect graphics, dialogue and plot.

  11. Newclench
    December 14, 2011, 7:11 pm

    The nature of the dialogue in the comic book doesn’t represent a lot of decent programs. Movements like Ta’ayush and Hithabrut in Israel, or organizations like the Alternative Information Center and Re’ut Sadaka have a lot of experience creating shared experiences between Jews and Palestinians that are productive on so many levels.
    It is also true, that some dialogue efforts are misguided and cynical. Mostly unprofessional. There’s a discipline around conflict resolution meetings between minorities and majorities, oppressed and oppressor communities. It comes from experiences built up in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Rwanda and elsewhere. And when dialogues are constructed properly, they offer benefits to both sides, not just one.
    I think of some of the founders of the ISM, who left Seeds of Peace right before starting it. Well…. seems that Seeds of Peace was a productive staging ground for those activists.
    The ‘job’ of persuading Israelis or Jews to shift their perspective doesn’t belong to any specific group. It’s not really a job. Rather, it’s a goal that different groups desire or see as strategic. And dialogue groups are part of this, by breaking down myths that they have about Arabs and Palestinians. If you examine the personal history of many Israeli leftists, you will find experiences of dialogue under the auspices of Interns for Peace, youth movements, the Ministry of Education, Peace Now and lots of other banners. For some, those experiences lit a spark that led them to a lifetime of activism for peace.
    In 1999, I was invited to present to a group of Palestinian youth from East Jerusalem being organized to attend a foreign funded dialogue effort with an Israeli youth group. The host wanted me to prepare them – to give them a taste of some of the challenges. Of course I echoed some of the truths from the comic book – the basic inequality, the need for political action, and so on. But I reminded them of what they have to gain – knowledge of the enemy and the opportunity to create space in someone else’s mind for the Palestinian people.
    The anti-normalization agenda can’t be separated from it’s political roots with the opposition to Oslo and the big turn of the PLO towards diplomacy instead of violent confrontation. It’s not even about talking to Zionists. It’s about a political battle against other Palestinians – the sponsors and inheritors of Oslo. That doesn’t take away their legitimacy, but it does make it clear that they represent a particular sliver of Palestinian opinion, not the entirety of it. Westerners, Jews, Israelis should be careful about reducing the Palestinian voices to one faction, no matter how beloved they are by secular democratic one staters living outside of Palestine.

    • dudu440
      December 17, 2011, 3:24 am

      Newclench said a lot of what I intended, so I can be brief.
      How about using something like this as a ground rule? No “dialogue” or other civil society “normalization” activity that is part of an effort to promote “brand Israel” or that involves a public image of two equal/equally culpable parties. But depending on the context and circumstances, perhaps yes to dialogue activity that may well lack a clear anti-occupation agenda but offers a real opportunity to reach people’s hearts and minds.
      Like Newclench, I’ve seen many former adherents of mainstream Zionism become advocates for Palestinian rights thanks to exposure to Palestinians narratives in what started as apolitical, structured dialogue. It would be a shame to forgo that route for the sake of ideological purity.

  12. droog
    December 14, 2011, 10:01 pm

    If you still have contact with SOP, you could do them a big favor and point out that they use:

    “I welcome the efforts of Seeds of Peace. Such exposure at an early age to a divergence of views plays a crucial part in laying the foundations for tolerance and understanding.” – Tony Blair,

    on the front page frame of the Seeds of Peace website, not good in light of the last decade or so of tolerance and understanding in the ME.

    the Oslo Accords are/were a goddamn scam, please catch up, that is why the malevolance persists in the Levant, nearly two decades after the brief period (supposedly) of the transition.

    there’s also reason people all over the world do and will remember Rachel Corrie , Vittorio Arrigoni , Tom Hurndall and others, try to work out why , an exercise in Normalisation. As an obvious example, the Spanish Civil War also inspired and continues to inspire.

    disclosure: on a very personal level, I’m pissed at the inclusion of the Israeli Ministry of Education in anything other than a bonfire of the bureauocracies.

  13. lyn117
    December 16, 2011, 1:18 am

    My personal definition of a zionist working for “normalization”: someone who wants reconciliation, half-truth and no end to apartheid

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